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Just Chillin' Park sleepout raises money for the homeless

"I can't feel my toes!" "I'm hungry!" "I'm so cold!" were likely complaints to be heard from students at the Park School of Buffalo throughout the night of Feb. 10 at "Just Chillin,'" a charity event held every other year.

Just Chillin' is coordinated to raise money and awareness for homelessness relief. Students in grades 9 to 12 sleep outside from 2 p.m. until 10 a.m. the next morning. Each student was required to raise or donate a minimum of $25. Park School teachers participated as chaperones, working shifts of four to fix hours at a time.

"This is my second time doing this event and I am really impressed with the motivation of the people in this group," said senior Liz Schreiber. "We are all really dedicated to the cause and it's a great bonding experience."

There was plenty of bonding going around with temperatures in the teens and snow falling all day long. Junior Jen Dref said she would survive sleeping in the frigid weather "as long as I have a warm box and five people with me, I'm fine."

At one point in the night, sophomore Max Weiss shouted, "Come and get some of Max's Fried Peaches!" when he found a can of peaches that somebody had donated. He had fried the peaches over an open fire in an old pan someone had brought. "They were no different from regular peaches but they were warm and since we were cold, they tasted a lot better."

As sophomore James Maxwell observed: "I am not really hungry, but knowing that I can't eat makes me hungry, and I am not really cold, but knowing that I can't go inside to get warm is making me colder."

Many students were ecstatic when it was time for new chaperones to arrive because occasionally they brought something hot to drink or eat.

Many students brought a box to be used as their temporary living quarters. Some made their boxes into something elaborate, fusing two large boxes together with duct tape; some were covered with waterproof tarps. Student Mikhele Roberts brought a box with the bottom framed in wood and lined, once used to transport coffins. Even with these elaborate preparations, students just could not keep warm. Many had wet socks, wet gloves, and wet clothes freezing on their backs.

Bitter wind chills meant many students got only one or two hours of sleep. Even though the school gym was open, students were allowed inside only to use the bathroom, a luxury most homeless people don't have access to.

Overall, the night was spent trying to stay warm by making and bonding with new friends, dancing, playing in the snow, sledding and just trying to keep warm. "It was my first year doing this event and my first year in high school so it really allowed me to bond with people I didn't know much about before," said freshman Clara Hess.

Just Chillin' 2006 raised $1,150, which will be donated to the Homeless Alliance of Western New York. For information about the problem of homelessness in this area, go online to www.wnyhomeless.org.Josh Bach is a junior at Park School.

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